By: Heidi Kulicke
Q:How can news organizations boost numbers with young adults in the 18-30 age group — the category traditionally found to have the smallest readership?
23, senior in political science with a minor in journalism at Utah State University. Jepson will be a senior this fall. After graduation he hopes to work in public relations and marketing.
A:Getting 18-to 30-year-olds to read the news is like trying to start a fire without matches. The fact is, most of that demographic just isn’t interested in what’s going on in their state, country, or planet — yet.
The good news is that news is awesome. If you can get somebody to tune into the news just long enough to discover that it’s pertinent to them, they’ll be hooked for life. The struggle, then, lies not in adapting the news to a disinterested generation, but rather sparking the interest of a generation that doesn’t yet know what it’s missing.
So, here’s my idea: Put the news where they are. Obviously 18-to 30-year-olds won’t go out of their way to pick up something they don’t already need. So instead, newspapers have to put the news in front of them where they can discover it.
Put it in McDonald’s (or any other restaurant). You’ll find our generation goes there to chat just as much as we do to eat. Put it in city buses — people don’t talk to each other on those anyway and would jump at the chance to hide behind something for 15 minutes.
Put it in the universities. Let me rephrase: Please, please, please put it in the universities — for free. If you can get a few to start reading, even if it costs you money up-front, you’ll create a generation of consumers by capitalizing on the insurmountable power of trend, and the revenue will follow.
The fact is our age group is impressionable, and also eager to impress. If you create the spark by making the paper accessible, the firestorm will ensue.
60, circulation director, The Durango (Colo.) Herald. Ivey is a publishing veteran with 37 years in the industry. During his career, he has managed circulation and production operations for R.L. Polk & Co. and Detroit Media Partnership. He has two daughters in their 20s and is also an active city councilman.
A: Among the many challenges our industry faces is engaging young adults in the core newspaper, the traditional print edition. Let’s cut to the chase and get at why the 18-30 age group is not on board.
In their formative years, our sons and daughters mastered new tools of evolving technology that we who grew up in television’s infancy could hardly imagine. Their childhood experience is vastly different. They are truly a high-tech generation, firsthand experts on its many devices. We older adults have played catch-up. Adapting to the Internet, we’ve adjusted to how instant information has changed commerce and our careers. We’ve learned how social media can connect us with family and relations, and reconnect us with faraway people we knew long ago. We’ve seen the broad scope of social media’s power: from magnifying the trivial to significance, to spurring civil outrage and unrest.
The 18-30 age group is desensitized and not easily impressed. They’ve seen everything. With three-dimensional high definition and instant facts at their fingertips, what possible interest could they have in looking at a newspaper? Still photos, bold graphics, and clever headlines may grab their attention. They will pause and look. But if the story is yesterday’s news or it doesn’t spark their emotions, don’t expect much more.
OK, what can we do to reach them? Run stories that share real-life experiences others in their demographic have had, conveying a sincere regard for the interests of young adults. Invite their comments, print them, and don’t edit out those that may surprise or shock us. Finally, let’s give them fresh stories they will yearn to share with friends.